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Thinking ahead for success

QUARTER 4 I 2018

Kathryn Minshew: building a business about people The digital skills gap is throttling UK economic growth Jack Dorsey: taking social media to the next level Business growth depends on embracing change Take advantage of multiple generations in your workforce Catriona Wallace: reimagining customer experience

When expertise counts Not all business finance needs can be solved with vanilla solutions. When an expert sounding-board is needed, Fifo Capital can help: • One-on-one consultancy (complimentary) with a business finance specialist • Fast response and approval of finance (24 hours) to meet changing business needs • Consultancy in partnership with your financial advisers and with banking facilities • Solution-solvers for short term needs, and long term sustainability.

When your business finance needs demand expert thinking and purpose-fit solutions, call Fifo Capital on +44 (0)13 4438 8084

is a leading provider of business finance solutions, specialising in solving short term finance needs fast with purpose-fit solutions and one-on-one expert consultancy. With over ten years supporting clients across all industries, our specialists work with the unique complexities of business clients, to identify finance solutions that are appropriate for both short term needs and long term sustainability. Working alongside clients’ financial professional advisers and in harmony with their existing banking facilities, our finance solutions are very often bespoke to each client and designed to fit their specific need at that point in time. Since launching in 2004, Fifo Capital has established more than 70 offices across New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, and provided business owners £650 million growth capital finance.


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Providing flexible financing options to more customers Fifo Capital England has opened its new business venture, Fifo Business Finance Ltd, which offers financial resources to both Fifo Capital Business Partners and customers alike. The new facility is a recognition of the strong growth of the business in England & Wales, Fifo Capital’s sophisticated proprietor systems and the confidence of the business operators Staale Aasestrand and John Blackmore.

Fifo Business Finance directly offers an in-house facility designed to provide additional cash flow support to businesses, even those outside their Business Partners’ regions. Better yet, it also serves to bolster Fifo Capital’s existing and new Business Partners, allowing them to grow more quickly, and to provide more meaningful financing to their customers. Fifo Capital’s success rests on its strong and flexible business model, which is built on its network of franchisees (Business Partners) who run their own local businesses. Customers work with local business partners who develop direct longterm relationships in their local business community that allow them to financially empower SMEs in their area. This allows the business to work even with clients who might not otherwise qualify for financing, offering them the cash they need to grow and succeed. In the current economic conditions, Fifo Capital’s Business Partners need additional resources to be able to provide SMEs throughout England & Wales with the cash flow solutions they need to thrive. This in-house facility allows Business Partners to draw on funds that they can then use to provide services to their own clients. Not only does this allow them to help more small businesses, it’ll also accelerate their growth, and help them to establish themselves at a time when British businesses need them most.

Fifo Capital actively supports introducers of new business nationwide through our network of franchisees or our national in-house facility. Existing and new referral partners should contact us to discuss future opportunities. Besides giving Business Partners more capacity to finance their clients, the new in-house facility will also be used to directly finance clients. This is particularly important, because it will allow SMEs outside Fifo Capital’s Business Partners’ regions to access financing services that wouldn’t otherwise be available to them. While foreign investment in the UK has increased significantly in the past few years, many small businesses haven’t benefited from it. Instead, SMEs that aren’t centrally located or are in more domestically oriented industries have been left to find their own way in an economy that is still relatively unprepared for next year’s exit from the European Union. To ensure that local businesses have the resources they need to establish themselves better today, and to develop the resilience they may need in the future, Fifo Capital England & Wales offers a number of critical cash flow management tools. Please contact us to see how Fifo Capital can help you and your clients. Best regards, J ohn Blackmore & Staale Aasestrand Fifo Capital England Limited Directors




















Kathryn Minshew: building a business about people The digital skills gap is throttling UK economic growth Business success means finding your motivation Innovative company cultures are built on communication Jack Dorsey: taking social media to the next level Great customer experiences are key for SME growth Business growth depends on embracing change Take advantage of multiple generations in your workforce Startup success relies on timing and time management Catriona Wallace: reimagining customer experience

Published by Fifo Capital International Ltd. Headway magazine is published four times a year. Copyright Š 2016 by Fifo Capital International Ltd. Email Visit All rights reserved.



Kathryn Minshew: building a business about people At the age of 33, and with an estimated net worth of $2.3 million USD, Kathryn Minshew, the founder and CEO of career portal The Muse, doesn’t fit the profile of big Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Rather, her career resonates with the experience of many young entrepreneurs today, and offers us unique insights that we can apply in our own businesses.

“Understanding your employee's perspective can go a long way towards increasing productivity and happiness.” 1

After losing her life savings in a failed entrepreneurial venture in 2010, Minshew launched The Muse with the help of her co-founders, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Melissa McCreery in 2011. She was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list the same year, and has been instrumental in shaping and growing the business, which has now helped over 50 million professionals find new jobs. While

her career as an entrepreneur had a rough start, her talents as a leader, and her attitude toward her employees ultimately ensured her success.

Early career Minshew originally aspired to work for the US State department as a foreign service officer, and interned at the US embassy in Cyprus. After experiencing a change of heart while working there, she founded her first business, Pretty Young Professionals (PYP), along with 3 co-founders. The business, which focused on providing career development and facilitating job searches for women, was built on Minshew’s own frustrations with finding a suitable position after returning to the US in 2009. She recalls making it to the final round of interviews, only to realise that she wasn’t comfortable with the business’ atmosphere and culture. PYP, and later The Muse, were conceived to address this issue much earlier in the application process.

Less than a year later, she and another co-founder were forced out of the business without any kind of compensation. This failed venture eventually led to the creation of her current and highly successful venture, The Muse, in 2011.

Harnessing the power of people While her former co-founders retained most of PYP’s assets, Minshew had the confidence of her team. After explaining the situation to the employees she had recruited for PYP, the entire team stayed with her and Cavoulacos to support them in their next venture, The Muse. Operating in the same industry as PYP, Minshew was able to make immediate use of her and her team’s existing experience to get the new business off the ground. This provided her with an important lesson, that businesses are built by the people who work in them.

Kathryn Minshew and The Muse co-founder, Alexandra Cavoulacos

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According to Minshew it’s best to simply try new things to find out whether they work. If not, it’s no big deal, they simply move on.

As a result of their work, The Muse was accepted into tech accelerator YCombinator in 2012, securing $1.2 million in seed funding in 2013. By 2016, the company managed to secure investments totalling nearly $29 million.

Creating a culture of innovation When looking at her company, it’s immediately obvious that Minshew believes in her employees first and foremost, and takes an active hand in developing the business’ company culture. Moreover, she embraces and prioritises experimentation and innovation in the workplace. On a structural level this is evident through the amount of latitude given to team leaders, and her hands-off attitude toward her subordinates. It’s also reflected in her openness to change and simply trying things out. Employees attend weekly “Things that suck” meetings, where tasks are nominated that will be distributed among an entire group in order to minimise the time any one person has to spend on particularly onerous work. Currently, they’re experimenting with allowing 3

done an excellent job of harnessing the talent that was available to her. The skills, attitude, culture, and engagement of a business’ team affects the quality of its products, its As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to focus primarily ability to innovate, and its ability to on investors and potentially disruptive ideas, manage and adapt while largely ignoring the issue of talent. to change. This is starkly visible when looking at Minshew’s story in employees to bring infants to work. regard to PYP. While her former coAccording to Minshew it’s best to founders walked away with all of the simply try new things to find out company’s assets, Minshew got the whether they work. If not, it’s no big team. Today, she is by far the most deal, they simply move on. successful of the four.

What we can learn

While certainly innovative, The Muse isn’t built on any particularly disruptive product, and while it’s wellfunded, it also doesn’t owe its success to lavish spending. Rather, it’s about supporting and depending on people. The mission of the business itself is to improve the way that people find jobs, and to give people the tools to do so. Beyond that, Minshew has

As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to focus primarily on investors and potentially disruptive ideas, while largely ignoring the issue of talent. This is a problem, because businesses are ultimately made up of the people who work in them. In order to attract the investment they need, to innovate, and to grow, businesses first need a team that’s up to the challenge.

When expertise counts Not all business finance needs can be solved with vanilla solutions. When an expert sounding-board is needed, Fifo Capital can help: • One-on-one consultancy (complimentary) with a business finance specialist • Fast response and approval of finance (24 hours) to meet changing business needs • Consultancy in partnership with your financial advisers and with banking facilities • Solution-solvers for short term needs, and long term sustainability.

When your business finance needs demand expert thinking and purpose-fit solutions, call Fifo Capital.

+44 (0)13 4438 8084

The digital skills gap

is throttling UK economic growth For years, the UK has managed its digital skills gap by attracting foreign talent to work in skilled jobs, and by promoting the development of tech skills among young people. While this has worked to an extent, the skills gap has continued to grow. According to a new report by Accenture, the UK may miss out on as much as ÂŁ141.5 billion in GDP growth over the next 10 years. This trend is mirrored in other G20 countries, with many facing even greater potential economic repercussions. Unlike these, however, the UK faces the additional threat of Brexit.


With record numbers of skilled foreign workers leaving the country, competition for talent among businesses is likely to become increasingly fierce. In the past, this would be moderated almost immediately by an influx of skilled EU workers, who could easily and quickly respond to attractive wage incentives. Going forward, however, this is likely to become much more difficult, slowing the growth of businesses dependent on these skills, and even giving them incentive to move.

Traditional education is too slow to be effective The UK has some of the best universities in the world, and practically all young UK citizens develop digital skills to some extent. Unfortunately, however, many of these simply aren’t sufficient to serve the needs of UK tech businesses. The problem is, in large part, that technology, and the needs of the businesses that depend on it, is advancing more rapidly than the labour market or the education system. According to the World Economic Forum, approximately 65 percent of today’s children will grow up to work in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

In light of this, it’s clear that simply updating school and university curricula is not an effective solution. Rather, even workers with very solid digital skills should expect to update or acquire entirely new skill sets multiple times throughout their careers. While younger workers are increasingly comfortable with this new reality, older, pre-digital generations are not likely to adapt to fill these roles.

How businesses are dealing with the problem Businesses, responding to market pressures, have come up with their own solutions to the talent shortage. Increasingly, tech companies are turning to the Internet to hire remote employees or contractors in the EU or US to fill problematic roles. While this is an elegant solution for businesses, it’s not ideal for the UK as a country. Unlike talent that is brought into the country, these workers don’t pay taxes to the UK. Worse, businesses who increasingly find themselves looking elsewhere for their workers may eventually choose to move their headquarters entirely. In the long run, it’s unclear what impacts this could have on the country as a whole. Businesses, however, may breathe a little bit easier knowing that they’re not entirely out of options. Moreover, it’s likely that the UK government will take action to address the issue in such a way as to provide the necessary talent within the UK, in order to protect the country’s interests.

Preparing for a digital future Going forward, business leaders need to educate themselves about the future of the labour market as it pertains to their needs, and take steps to prepare. As the demand for digital skills continues to grow, they’ll need to find new ways to access the talent they need in order to manage the accompanying rise in cost.

Hire self starters Traditionally, the most important aspect of any job candidate has been their current qualifications and experience. Going forward, it will be increasingly important, however, to emphasise independent thinking, creativity, and self motivation. Because the education system won’t simply supply the talent businesses need, businesses need workers who will independently acquire the skills they need as they go. Promote constant learning Even skilled employees can no longer expect to apply their current skill sets throughout their careers, because the businesses that employ them won’t be able to compete and grow if they don’t keep up with, and adapt to, the latest technological solutions in their industry. In order to keep up, businesses need to drive and shape the development of their employees through training programs and incentives.

Focus on retention The larger the skills gap grows, the more difficult it will be to find new employees, and to hold on to existing talent. Competing businesses that can’t find available workers will increasingly attempt to attract talent from their competitors, or even partner businesses. To avoid losing critical employees, businesses will need to work harder than ever to develop company loyalty, and a healthy, attractive work environment. Regardless of how the larger situation develops going forward, businesses will adapt and contribute to improving the issue through market pressures. It remains to be seen, however, what the resulting effects on UK businesses and the UK economy will be. For business owners, the impacts will depend very much on how well they are prepared to adapt to the changing environment.

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Business success means finding This motivation is surprisingly easy to lose, as indicated by an informal survey by MyBusiness, which found that 41% of 282 respondent Australian business owners could no longer name a personal reason for being self employed.

Founding and running a business is a taxing experience, both in the short and long term. Going on to transform a new startup into a successful and growing enterprise is a downright herculean task. The road to success is long, and can often be discouraging. Considering this, it’s understandable that a large majority or new businesses never make it past their first year, and many of those that do never grow to become significant names in their industry.

To consistently put in the time and effort that your business needs in order to distinguish itself and grow, entrepreneurs need powerful motivation, and the ability to stay motivated and focused even in difficult circumstances. This motivation is surprisingly easy to lose, as indicated by an informal survey by MyBusiness, which found that 41 percent of 282 respondent Australian business owners could no longer name a personal reason for being self employed. For their businesses to succeed, business owners need to find what motivates them, and put in the work to stay motivated in the long term.


Understand why you’re in business

Initial motivations for starting a business can vary widely. Some entrepreneurs are looking for wealth or prestige, while others want to solve a larger problem with their product or service. Still others just want to be their own boss, or enjoy the idea of creating something bigger than themselves. Whatever your personal reasons may be, it’s important to be consciously aware


of them. Identifying your primary motivations, and updating them as you and your circumstances change and evolve, defines what success means for your business both in the short and long term. With that knowledge, you can begin to focus on how to achieve success.


Set goals to create a path to success

Motivation isn’t just built on a purpose, but also on the expectation of success. Once the question of why you’re in business is settled, it’s time to address how your business will serve that purpose. That means setting goals, and developing strategies for how to achieve those goals. An entrepreneur seeking worldwide recognition and reach, for example, might set goals related to building international business relationships, courting international investment, and establishing a subsidiary in another country. This serves to break down monumentally large and somewhat vague grand purposes into smaller, concrete, and much more achievable goals.

your motivation


Staying motivated in the long term

Maintaining your motivation to achieve the goals that you’ve set for yourself is, in many ways, about controlling your stress levels. High stress levels can cause anyone to lose track of their responsibilities, and to become easily overwhelmed by cash flow interruptions or other roadblocks. At that point, even smaller intermediary goals no longer seem achievable, and despair sets in. After that, it can be very difficult to recover. To avoid this type of situation in the first place, it’s very important to maintain control of how your business operates, and your own work life.


Establish financial solutions ahead of time

Business owners consistently cite cash flow problems as their biggest impediment to growth and success. Resolving this issue by preemptively establishing financing solutions can provide both the time and the peace of mind entrepreneurs need to deal with other stressors, and to get their business back on track. Depending

on the business, that might mean setting up a standby loan, opening an unsecured line of credit, or simply talking to a financial representative to learn about invoice financing or supply chain finance.


Maintain a routine

Many business owners work upwards of 60 hours per week. While long hours may be an issue for some on their own, the more important side effect is often that entrepreneurs don’t have regular routines. Setting up, and then following, a relatively rigid routine can seem like a difficult task, but it’s also been shown to significantly reduce stress levels. Routines provide a sense of normalcy, and frees up energy that would otherwise be used to mentally juggle a complex and irregular schedule. More importantly, it allows otherwise extremely busy people to maintain their health by enforcing regular meals, sleep, exercise, and time for relaxation.


Fight environmental stressors

the majority of their time at work, surrounded by employees, it’s important to create a healthy and positive work environment. That means taking steps to nurture a healthy company culture, as well as making your physical environment as livable as possible with simple amenities. Colourful decor, proper lighting, comfortable seating, and quality coffee might sound frivolous, but it has important psychological effects. A hospitable environment promotes friendlier interactions, and directly lowers the stress levels of everyone exposed to it. These steps allow business owners and their teams to cooperate and communicate better, and allow them to function with less friction, even at the end of a long day. While the challenges that business owners face vary widely, and the right way to become motivated and to maintain that motivation aren’t the same for everyone, business owners who follow these general guidelines are better able to visualise their goals, to define their path forward, and to maintain their focus in the long term.

For a business owner that spends

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Innovative company cultures are built on communication


BRIEFLY While many successful startups are built on a single disruptive innovation, it takes a consistently innovative company culture to grow into an industry leader. A single brilliant entrepreneur can almost never do the back-breaking work of running a business while also continuing to come up with transformative ideas. Rather, many of the longest-lived and familiar brands we know today rely on the innovative potential of their entire staff to drive them forward. According to the recent State of Employees report by Sideways6, 82 percent of employees claim to have ideas for how to improve their companies. Unfortunately, approximately a third of employees feel that their ideas are being ignored, while a further 20 percent never voice their thoughts at all. To access the innovative potential of your team, it’s important to create open lines of communication and to ensure that ideas receive the consideration that they’re due. Moreover, businesses also need to develop strong communication between employees to help them collaborate, discuss, and refine their ideas into workable solutions.

Anyone can be an innovator Most upper level managers indicate that they do feel comfortable voicing their opinions and pushing for change. However, innovation isn’t just a job for managers or research and development teams. Nobody understands a product or process as well as someone who is immersed in it all day, every day. Because of that, it’s important to listen to lower-level workers, especially when they offer feedback that’s directly relevant to their area of expertise. A business that has a track record of doing this very well is Toyota, which has built much of its success on exactly this model. For decades, the company has worked to build a trust relationship with their workers and incentivise them to bring their ideas forward. Even today, Toyota still

82% of employees claim to have ideas for how to improve their companies 1/3 of employees feel that their ideas are being ignored 20% never voice their thoughts at all

implements 9 improvements per year based on worker suggestions.

Businesses need to promote collaboration One issue that interferes with a general culture of innovation is a toxic level of individual competition. It’s common in many businesses for individuals to avoid sharing ideas for fear that a co-worker or manager might steal it and claim credit for themselves. In businesses where rewards for great ideas are significant and targeted at individuals, this is almost unavoidable. To manage this, it’s important to dismantle the incentives that drive this kind of toxic behavior. Toyota, again, does this by rewarding entire teams instead of single individuals. This way, it’s safe for any employee to discuss and improve on an idea within their team, knowing that their individual contribution isn’t as important as the success of the idea as a whole.

Innovative employees need to be treated with respect With the advent of “startup culture” and the rise of innovation as an important corporate concept, many businesses responded by simply creating a “suggestion” box where employees could submit ideas. These sound great in theory, since they don’t require a major time investment on the part of business leaders, but they also have some very serious shortcomings.

Leafing through a stack of suggestions at the end of a week or month divorces each suggestion from the context in which it was written. A top level manager is unlikely to understand exactly why an employee is making a certain suggestion, and might dismiss it simply because it sounds boring, irrelevant, or too confusing. Instead, decision makers need to take the time to sit down with employees who want to suggest a change. Not only does a face-to-face give a potentially profitable idea the attention it needs, it also shows employees the respect they deserve. An employee who doesn’t feel listened to is unlikely to go to the effort of developing, improving, and presenting an idea. Conversely, people who feel that they are taken seriously will come back with new, well thought out ideas again and again, even if earlier ones are never implemented.

Set clear goals to provide direction For some businesses it might be enough to simply encourage employees to innovate to make their jobs easier and the business more effective. In most cases, however, individual employees won’t know exactly what your business needs. An employee that comes forward with a great new product idea won’t be well received at a time when the company is actually looking to cut operating costs. By communicating your current goals to your team, you can provide employees with the direction they need to come up with ideas that are relevant to your situation. Building excellent communication helps to fight toxic attitudes toward innovation in your business, and lays the groundwork for a culture that produces workable and relevant ideas. By taking these steps, you can make sure that your employees understand your needs, and feel more comfortable working together to improve your business.

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Jack Dorsey: taking social media to the next level Throughout his career, Jack Dorsey has operated with a laser focus on the power of fast, simple, and effective communication. Reaching well beyond his work in founding and serving as Twitter’s first CEO, Dorsey has applied his passion for good communication to his other business ventures, as well as his personal management philosophy.

“Twitter was around communication and visualizing what was happening in the world in real-time. Square was allowing everyone to accept the form of payment people have in their pocket today, which is a credit card.”


In the past two decades, he’s taken full advantage of the potential of technology for sharing and coordinating knowledge and data, and has founded a number of successful companies while building his personal wealth to a net worth approaching $7 billion. His career, starting as a teenager, reflects a considerable technical talent that made this possible, while the

management skills he’s developed in the past decade largely continue to drive his ongoing success today.

Early entrepreneurship While he’s best known for founding Twitter, Dorsey began his journey as a professional programmer when he was in high school. Fascinated by the complexity of coordinating vehicles in real time in an ever changing traffic environment, he built a program to help businesses track and manage taxis and delivery vans. The software, now over 25 years old, is still being used by some taxi companies today.

Dorsey’s complicated rise as an entrepreneur While Dorsey’s personal success is undeniable, his career at Twitter

is rather controversial. Acting as Twitter’s first CEO and cofounder, he oversaw its initial rise, and rightfully deserves credit for his hand in its success. In 2008, however, he was ousted from his position and given a position as a passive chairman with a silent board seat. This was, according to sources at the time, largely due to his poor relationships with investors. During his exile from Twitter, Dorsey moved on to found Square, an online payment management company that allows businesses and individuals to accept cashless payments with a minimum of tedium. Square quickly became successful and grew, giving Dorsey the opportunity to develop and further define his management skills, while avoiding many of the issues that plagued his time at Twitter. Buoyed

by his success, Dorsey returned to Twitter as executive chairman in 2015, where he has remained since. Today, he is a well recognised entrepreneurial figure that strongly evokes the image of Steve Jobs, who mirrors his own journey to a notable degree.

Leading with employees in mind Unlike many of the founder-CEOs we’ve discussed, Dorsey does not believe in tightly controlling information, or micromanaging the decisions of employees. Rather, his approach is significantly more handsoff, focusing more on delegating important decisions to the proper experts, and ensuring that employees have the information they need to make good decisions.

JACK DORSEY Starts a company to dispatch couriers, taxis and emergency services

Launches Twitter as chief executive (CEO); sends the first tweet

Steps down as Twitter CEO and becomes chairman

Launches Square with cofounder Jim McKelvey: first service allows small firms to take card payments using small, square card reader

Twitter lists on the New Yourk Stock Exchange

Square Capital starts offering loans to small businesses, paid back from their card receipts

Becomes Twitter CEO once more

Square lists in New York, so he is now CEO of two public companies

Square launches its card payment service in the UK










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Unlike more traditional CEOs, Dorsey also seems to prioritise the development of company culture and internal ideology over the interests of investors. This has led to an unemotional and risk-averse approach to change management, which caused significant bad press for Dorsey in 2015 and 2016, after his return as CEO failed to turn the company around in any spectacular fashion. Despite this, the approach appears to be working, as Twitter announced its very first profits on 8 February 2018. A likely reason for this success is that, as a part of Dorsey’s management strategy, employees are strongly encouraged to think and act independently, and to take responsibility for their decisions. In a similar situation, CEOs like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs might have simply changed the direction of their company by personally taking over the jobs of their employees and restructuring the business under their own power. Dorsey, on the other hand, relied on Twitter employees

to do the work. As a result, Twitter boasts a workforce that is meticulous, responsible, and creative where other teams rely heavily on top-down direction.

What we can learn For business owners, Dorsey’s journey is educational in a number of ways. His personal technical skills and vision ultimately made him a great entrepreneur, while his management style lends itself to long term success, even as it might slow short term growth. Conversely, his relationship to investors constitute a clear blind spot that has plagued him throughout his career. How not to treat investors Not respecting his investors ultimately cost Dorsey his initial position as Twitter’s CEO. Worse, it has continued to adversely affect the growth of his companies. By neglecting to prioritise short term investor returns, Dorsey made a number of enemies out of people who should have been his allies. These, in turn, dragged his and his companies’ names through the mud, which likely depressed share prices further. Despite his relationships with investors, Dorsey’s entrepreneurial success is undeniable. Dorsey’s approach to management promotes the growth of a strong team that isn’t reliant on a single charismatic leader. That depth makes it more resilient, and protects the future of the business beyond Dorsey’s tenure there. Beyond that, it’s important that both Twitter and Square have reported profits this year. This profitability lends both companies greater resilience, and somewhat helps to reduce their reliance on investors going forward. While controversial, Jack Dorsey’s career is a success story that provides a lot of ideas for entrepreneurs to think about, and to incorporate into their own businesses.


Trust Fifo Capital to sort your seasonal cash flows A standby working capital facility ready to access when you need it most.

Simple preapproved facility sitting alongside existing finance arrangements. • Pay only if you use it • Fast and simple to activate • Peace of mind for unexpected cash flow interruptions • Small and large exposures • Treated on a case by case basis, and tailored to your needs

Contact Fifo Capital today for more information. +44 (0)13 4438 8084

Great customer experiences are key for SME growth When we discuss growing a business, the conversation typically focuses on financing, innovation, personnel management, and cost management. Another key factor that’s often under-emphasised is customer service. In a way, the way that businesses interact with customers is a part of the product, and optimising this can often benefit a business as much as any other form of product development. The way that improving customer service benefits a business’ growth, interestingly enough, parallels the way that a product improvement works. Specifically, it encourages better customer retention, and helps to attract new customers. For SMEs that are already investing directly in their growth, sales and marketing budgets tend to be razor thin, and finding low cost ways to increase revenues is critical. For them, great customer service is an essential part of maintaining and growing their customer base.

Customer service is especially important for SMEs When we look at some of the biggest and most successful companies on the market, we often don’t think of amazing customer service. Rather, big businesses tend to focus on what might be best described as simple professionalism. This doesn’t mean that a focus on customer experience isn’t important for smaller and newer businesses. These big businesses already have well established reputations, and need to work to avoid bad press more than they need


to prove themselves to customers. Moreover, in order to expand into a new market, these larger businesses can simply invest in marketing and advertising to help them attract new customers. Unlike them, SMEs need to mobilise their existing customer base to help them grow, and to keep existing customers from leaving them for better established competitors. Great products effectively sell themselves because they make customers happy enough to become brand evangelists,

and great customer service works exactly the same way. By providing people a great customer experience, it works to shape their attitude about your brand, and the way they will represent it to the people around them.

Improving customer service at your business Great customer service might look slightly different depending on the industry that a business is in. For example, the interactions

between a restaurant and a patron won’t obviously resemble those of a software development firm and its client. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working from the same customer service skill set. Different kinds of customers have different needs, and great customer interactions are about understanding and meeting those needs. Understanding customer needs In order to provide great service, team members need to understand the purpose of the business is, and

The way that improving customer service benefits a business’ growth, interestingly enough, parallels the way that a product improvement works. Specifically, it encourages better customer retention, and helps to attract new customers.

what the needs of their customers are. That means grasping that a restaurant, for example, sells more than just food, but also a dining experience and a pleasant social venue. On the level of the individual customer, though, it also means that seeing that a single person sitting at a table for one on a friday night will need to be approached differently than a group of 5 if both are meant to have the best possible experience. Provide a human face Identifying these needs, and responding to them appropriately is difficult, and often requires a significant amount of training. More than anything else, however, it’s a matter of interacting with customers as a person, rather than just as a business. Team members often intuitively understand the needs of their customers if they take the time to see and communicate with them on a personal level. Because of this, it’s a good idea to encourage customer facing employees not to stick to memorized scripts, but rather to simply talk to clients normally, and help them as best they can. Teach troubleshooting skills Businesses inevitably run into customer service difficulties, whether

it’s a product shortage, a mistake, shipping problems, or just a long line at the register. In situations like these, it’s critical for team members to understand what to do. Most often, an untrained person might try to either take or avoid responsibility on behalf of the business. While just taking responsibility might sound like a good thing to do, it won’t actually help the customer, or improve their experience. Instead, this interaction, like any other, should be leveraged to make the client feel valued, and to help build a stronger relationship. A good way to do this is to offer an apology along with doing something to resolve the problem, or, if that isn’t possible, to improve their experience another way. Training employees and working to improve your business’ customer interactions can have a major impact. While the low cost involved makes it ideal for growing SMEs, large companies like Zappos have shown that a focus on great customer service can make a big difference at any level. By making the effort to optimise your business’ approach to customer service, you can accelerate your business’ growth while spending virtually no additional funds.

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Business growth depends on embracing change Entrepreneurs invest an enormous amount of time, effort, and resources in building their startups into stable, profitable enterprises. Considering these major sacrifices, it’s no surprise that many business owners become very cautious about making major changes once they do achieve that stability and profitability. Unfortunately, those instincts can get in the way of their business’ continued growth and longer term success. Making a business grow, and ensuring that it remains competitive over time, requires constant innovation and progress. To do that, business owners need to learn to pursue innovation, while letting go of clients, procedures, and roles that no longer serve the interests of their business.

Driving innovation in your industry The ideas and products that built your startup’s initial success will only carry it so far. The more competitive an industry is, the more rapidly a business’ current way of doing things will become obsolete. In order to grow, your business needs to not only adapt to this, but rather to lead that change through innovation. Investing in change Simply keeping up with a changing industry requires businesses to track developing trends, purchase new equipment and software, and to train their employees regularly. Leading that change, though, also means investing in the development of new ideas, and taking the risks associated with experimenting with those new ideas.

To manage the risk of a setback directly, businesses need cash flow management tools like invoice financing and supply chain finance. These allow them to distribute the financial impacts of a setback over a longer time period, giving them the freedom to act. Moreover, businesses need to ensure that they can invest in themselves. That means streamlining their operations as much as possible as they grow, and getting rid of inefficiencies as they develop.

Out with the old As the needs of a business change, the way it operates needs to adapt if it means to maximise its profit, growth, and overall effectiveness. Most often, this means letting go of familiar and safe aspects of your operation to make room for bold, strategic, and growthfocused decisions. Let old clients go Early on, startups often rely on just a few important clients to keep them afloat. Over time, they develop a close relationship, and a sense of loyalty to each other. Those first clients often represent a strange anachronism within these businesses, tying up the most experienced employees, enjoying special privileges, and paying disproportionately low prices. Unfortunately, this can get in the way of your business’ success. As businesses grow they need to switch gears, raising prices, optimising services, and switching to larger, more profitable clients that offer more growth potential. Don’t promote based on familiarity The first manager a business ever

hires might be an excellent team leader, working directly with the business owner as their secondin-command. This doesn’t mean, however, that this person would also be effective in a high level executive position when the business grows. As your startup becomes a more mature business and larger hierarchies are implemented, current employees need to be placed in positions where they’ll be most effective, while new talent needs to be brought in to meet the new demands of your business. For business owners, that often means surrounding yourself with new faces, while keeping more familiar employees in the roles where they’re most effective. Get out of the way of progress The job of a business’ leaders changes as it matures and becomes more complex. While an entrepreneur is often directly involved in every aspect of their business, chief executives of established firms need to have a much limited scope if they hope to be effective administrators. Great entrepreneurs, who tend to view their business very possessively, often don’t make great CEOs. Because of this, business owners need to be mindful of the difference between founding a business, and running a larger enterprise. If they want to continue to run their business in the long term, they need to acquire the specific skills that being an effective CEO requires. That often means getting formal training, delegating some core responsibilities to more experienced professionals, and being willing to listen and implement the advice of investors and seasoned employees.

Growing a business isn’t just a matter of acquiring more clients and producing more. Instead, it’s a transformative process that requires every aspect of your business to evolve. By embracing this, and deliberately leading that change, you can turn your startup into an industryleading enterprise. Fifo Capital Headway


Take advantage of multiple generations in your workforce


As startups become larger, their workforces tend to also become more diverse. Business owners, unfortunately, often don’t recognise this as the opportunity that it is. While businesses usually do pursue policies to avoid discrimination, they often don’t adequately consider how to benefit from their diversity. One of the most important, and universally applicable of these is generational diversity. To reap the benefits of having a workforce that includes workers from multiple generations, businesses need to understand what different age groups bring to the table, and how these can benefit their team. Specifically, businesses need to build their teams in such a way that different generations can work together seamlessly, and bring their differences to bear in the most productive way possible. In doing this, they can learn to leverage different generations to empower their coworkers, leaders, and their bottom line.

Use different generations to empower each other Traditional well-established businesses often operate with an unintentionally rigid hierarchy that places older, more experienced employees at the top, and leaves younger employees to slowly work their way up over the course of decades. This effectively creates an environment where different generations of workers don’t operate in the same spheres, and can’t exchange ideas very well. Businesses that purposely hire younger, entrylevel workers for lower-rung positions to control labour costs exacerbate this issue even more. While these choices appear to make sense in terms of controlling costs and ensuring that leaders are experienced, they also slow employee development and make businesses less flexible.

Developing young employees Older coworkers are an invaluable resource to young, entry-level employees as mentors. Training new employees costs a lot of time and resources, and often a number of expensive mistakes. Having team members with decades of experience around to passively or actively aid in employee development can save your business a lot of money, while also making those younger employees more effective. On a cultural level, baby boomers and generation X are also more loyal to their employers, and more conservative in their approach to business in general. This can help to provide a sense of stability to your company’s culture, and helps to moderate younger employees.

Driving innovation Millennials and the new, incoming Generation Z, provide unique value to their employers as well. As digital natives, they can easily and intuitively find ways to apply new technologies to their jobs and to your

business. To older professionals, typically those in charge, these changes can seem bothersome, but they are essential. Businesses who keep track of, and evaluate the potential of these small, individual innovations stand to make significant leaps in efficiency In a more general sense, younger generations have the drive and fresh perspectives that a business needs to reinvent products and rethink inefficient processes that older generations are so used to that they’ve forgotten about them.

Put fresh blood into leadership positions Large corporations often suffer from overly rigid, fossilised hierarchies in which leadership is overwhelmingly represented by the oldest working generation. This seems to make sense, because decision makers need experience to avoid potentially disastrous mistakes. It’s important, however, not to overemphasise this need. Not only do businesses need to make sure that younger leadership talent is being appropriately developed in-house, they also need to ensure that current leaders have the broad perspectives available to them that they need to make the best decisions for their companies.

won’t work. People of different generations are very generally shaped by their shared formative experiences and cultural context, but that stereotype doesn’t necessarily describe the individual. To get the benefit of diversity, business leaders need to go out of their way to build their team from individuals that actually exhibit the diverse traits that they need. The critical point for businesses is to be aware of, and ready to take advantage of, the potential benefits of a multigenerational workforce. By facilitating and managing the exchange of ideas between workers of different generations and at different positions of influence, it’s possible for businesses to leverage this diversity in driving innovation, developing employees, and building flexible and insightful leadership teams.

Older business leaders are unlikely to fully grasp the priorities and the consumer demands of upcoming generations. Despite their experience, their phase of life, generational cultural background, and economic position can leave them disconnected from the needs of their employees and their own customers. They need the support of younger partners to keep up with their customers, and to remain competitive in their industry.

Focus on real diversity In pursuit of these benefits of generational diversity, it’s important to keep in mind that the emphasis is specifically on diversity. Simply judging people blindly by their age

Fifo Capital Headway


Startup success relies on

timing and time management In their first few years of operation, small businesses are in a very precarious position. Not only do entrepreneurs need to go through the bureaucratic, strategic, and mundane work of getting their business running, they also need to satisfy startup investors and lending institutions, and attract new investment. Those who don’t often rely on personal savings and investments by friends and family members to launch their businesses, which places them under even more personal pressure. Launching a business that has something to offer to its target market and its industry is a tough job regardless of the circumstances. Becoming profitable in a competitive economic environment before your startup funds run out is another issue entirely. The critical element is time,


both in terms of timing and time management. Entrepreneurs have a very limited amount of time, and they need to determine exactly how to spend it most efficiently if they hope to make the cut.


Make time for growth

Startups in their initial stages can almost never turn a profit. In order to become profitable, they need to scale up their operations and become more efficient. In light of this, new business owners need to invest their time in planning and driving their business’ growth. Unfortunately, this critical goal often falls by the wayside under the weight of more immediate concerns. Business owners juggling late client payments, equipment breakdowns, interpersonal workplace drama, and managing customers often simply forget. To avoid this fate,

entrepreneurs need to outsource unnecessary tasks to make time for those that require their attention. Use financing to manage working capital The typical Australian business owner spends 8 hours per week chasing down late payments. On top of that, business owners need to come up with funds and juggle other financial obligations in order to make ends meet to handle the resulting cash flow interruptions. Fortunately, this lost time can be recovered entirely by using the proper financing tools. Financial institutions like Fifo Capital offer invoice financing, supply chain finance, and unsecured business loans that, depending on your particular situation, can be used to quickly manage financial shortages. In the case of late payments, invoice financing not only allows businesses to immediately get paid

for their outstanding invoices, it also outsources the task of collecting payment to the financial institution. This gives entrepreneurs the time they need to strategise and pursue growth for their business without worrying as much about their bottom line.

2 Don’t wait to start marketing One unavoidable aspect of every growth strategy is marketing. A business that no one is aware of won’t be able to grow quickly. Unfortunately, many business owners wait until after their business is up and running before they begin to worry about marketing. This is a big mistake, and often results in otherwise viable businesses going bankrupt before they even have a real chance to assert themselves. It takes months or years to develop brand recognition, to build connections with other businesses, and to build an online presence that meaningfully generates leads. Getting the attention your business needs to not only survive, but to grow, is incredibly difficult to do with a time limit. Successful startups start marketing as soon as possible,

and budget strategically to ensure that their marketing campaign can be sustained long enough to begin generating enough leads to pay for itself.


Start innovating early

It can be tempting to wait until your new business is established and profitable before devoting time and funds to innovation and experimentation. Unfortunately, doing so can rob a startup of an important advantage. Innovation and novelty is the lifeblood of all startups, and entrepreneurs need to lean into it if they hope to disrupt their industries. Because they’re still small, they can rapidly experiment with new ideas and adapt to new situations in unique ways that larger competitors can’t. While larger businesses can afford research and development teams, their efforts will largely be focused on optimising existing tools and methods. Changing too significantly, or too quickly, means accepting the loss of any sunk costs, and losing any returns on those investments. New businesses, on the other hand, can make sweeping and transformative changes without suffering any such costs, or being forced to manage conservative-minded investors or board members.

Poor timing can leave an otherwise viable business bankrupt, while excellent timing and time management turn even anaemic and underfunded startups into successes.

Successful entrepreneurs aren’t just abstractly aware of what it takes to run a business. To establish something new, to grow, and to become competitive, they need to be masters of time management. Critical tasks don’t just need attention and resources, they need these in the right proportion at the right time in order to produce results. Poor timing can leave an otherwise viable business bankrupt, while excellent timing and time management turn even anaemic and underfunded startups into successes.

Fifo Capital Headway


Catriona Wallace: reimagining customer experience

"Stick to the things in life that you sense most deeply are important. Above and beyond anything at all, relationships and human interaction are the determinant of success. And this coming from me who is building robots to replace humans. It is all about the humans."


Looking at the biggest names in tech entrepreneurship, one could be excused for imagining that disruptive AI innovation was largely limited to Silicon Valley in the US. Of course this isn’t actually the case. While Facebook, Google, and Elon Musk have dominated headlines on their development of artificial intelligence, Dr. Catriona Wallace has been putting it into practice in Australia. While big names are concerning themselves with attention-grabbing super AI, Wallace is working at the cutting edge of AI technology to develop practical applications and create real value for businesses and their customers. Her company, Flamingo AI, provides cognitive virtual assistants to financial services businesses to guide customers through their services in order to improve customer satisfaction and conversion rates.

Identifying a problem in need of a solution Today, Wallace is widely regarded as one of the world’s most respected figures in the field of customer experience. She’s the recipient of Advance Australia’s top prize for Technology & Innovation for Australians working abroad, has won Telstra Business Awards and was awarded a Pearcey Foundation award for tech entrepreneurs. In large part, this success comes directly as a result of her ability to analyse data and identify specific problems, giving her the knowledge she needs to develop novel solutions. Wallace holds a PhD in organisational behaviour, and combined this education with her extensive professional experience before focusing directly on the development of AI. Before launching Flamingo AI, she also founded two other businesses, a market research firm and later a customer experience design firm. There she worked to

help businesses improve their sales processes and conversion rates, before ultimately determining that a software platform could potentially perform better in providing customised customer experiences than traditional approaches.

Finding and tapping available resources Wallace doesn’t attempt to do

everything from scratch, but rather mobilises the resources in her environment to achieve her goals. She talks at length about her efforts to build a top quality, high performing team, and heavily credits the people around her with facilitating her success. Her talents in this regard, however, go well beyond human resources. In a 2017 interview, Wallace lauded the changing investment landscape for AI entrepreneurs in Australia. At that time, Flamingo AI had just raised over $5 million in less than 12 minutes via a share placement to investors. She credited this success to the growing conversation about the potential of AI in Australia, and an increasing awareness of it among investors. This allowed her and Flamingo AI to access investment at a time when competition for those funds was relatively low. Building on this initial success, Flamingo AI is now working to scale in US financial markets and to begin to establish itself as a global company. Wallace, however, isn’t just focused

on growth and short term success.

Giving back Like many business owners, Wallace looked for ways to give back to her community as soon as she was in a position to do so. Unlike many entrepreneurs, she has embraced this role to the fullest. Most of her public interviews focus less on her work, and more on the communities

she is working to empower. Her non-profit work focuses on professional mentoring and support for women and girls, including women in indigenous communities in Australia. Additionally, she works as an adjunct at the Australian Graduate School of Management in an attempt to pass on her insights and experiences to younger generations of businesspeople. Wallace is passionate about empowering women entrepreneurs, and directly mentors women despite her busy schedule.

What we can learn There is a lot that entrepreneurs can take away from Wallace’s example. Her passion for advancing the place of women in business leadership is fierce, and it has helped to bring her ideas to a larger audience. Her authenticity in this regard has empowered her business in terms of the press that it receives, and serves as a reminder that social causes can be nearly as important to a business’ success as its operations. It’s also important to note that Wallace doesn’t operate like other serial entrepreneurs, who often try out a number of different industries. While she has founded several different businesses, Wallace is a specialist. Each new business evolved to solve a problem that she was led to by her previous venture in her pursuit of perfecting the customer experience. She’s a world-famous authority in her specific field, and has established herself ever more thoroughly as the innovative go-to expert for optimising customer experience. As a result, she’s the most natural authority to look to when looking at ways to introduce emerging technologies into her industry. This shows us that trying out different industries and roles in hopes of finding that ideal niche isn’t always the best choice for entrepreneurs. Rather, a more specialised serial entrepreneur can be just as successful by building on the industry insights gained by each previous project to create something new.

Fifo Capital Headway


When expertise counts Not all business finance needs can be solved with vanilla solutions. When an expert sounding-board is needed, Fifo Capital can help: • One-on-one consultancy (complimentary) with a business finance specialist • Fast response and approval of finance (24 hours) to meet changing business needs • Consultancy in partnership with your financial advisers and with banking facilities • Solution-solvers for short term needs, and long term sustainability.

When your business finance needs demand expert thinking and purpose-fit solutions, call Fifo Capital.

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Fifo Capital Q4 2018 England  

Fifo Capital Q4 2018 England